A Republican objection during the health care debate left one prominent Democratic Senator fuming after it resulted in the postponement of a hearing on the 2011 budget for the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, sharply criticized her Republican colleagues after they cited an obscure Senate procedural rule to cancel or delay a set of afternoon hearings. According to the rule, no hearings can be held in the Senate after 2:00pm without the unanimous consent of all Senators. While this consent is routinely granted on a daily basis, Senate Republicans recently refused in order to show their displeasure with the health care debate and the Democrats' use of the reconciliation process to enact a bill.
In addition to postponing a hearing in Landrieu's committee, the protest also canceled a series of others, including a budget hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"Over eight years under President Bush, more than a quarter of the SBA's funding was slashed-more than any other federal agency. Year after year of cuts-combined with the worst economic downturn we have seen since the great depression-have finally caught up to small business owners, as more than 80% of the jobs lost last year came from small firms," said Landrieu. "Yet, while my Committee is trying to reverse this trend by making the SBA a more muscular agency and by getting money into the hands of small businesses, my Republican colleagues will not permit the Small Business Committee to even meet to discuss the budget for the single agency that aids our entrepreneurs."
"My colleagues' pettiness has gone too far," she added.
However, citing this rule to cancel hearings is a tactic that has been employed by disenfranchised Democrats as well, during their years as the minority party, and the move tends to be standard operating procedure when one party is displeased with the other.
The SBA budget hearing has yet to be rescheduled. Additionally, while the Republican protests very clearly frustrated the majority party, they did little to stop the health care reform bill, which cleared its procedural hurdles and is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama next week.
Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer